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Communication is getting faster and faster – but don’t you miss receiving a good old postcard? www.postcrossing.com connects people all over the world through postcards – and who knows, you might also find love…

When Paulo Magalhães started the website www.postcrossing.com, he had no idea how popular it would be. Now over ten million postcards have been sent across the world through his project. What makes people want to send an old-fashioned postcard instead of an email? And could this be a new way to find your soulmate?

Postcrossing’s founder, Paulo Magalhães: “A postcard is a tangible medium of communication.” | Photo: Klara Yoon

Postcrossing connects people all over the world with postcards

Today you can send your news and your greetings by pressing a button on your computer and you can be sure that the other person (or people) will receive them in the next few seconds. It’s quick. It’s easy. It’s free. On the other hand, you can also be sure that the only thing you can expect to find in your mailbox are invoices and leaflets from pizzerias offering two pizzas for the price of one.

However, there are still lots of people who love to exchange real mail, not only with friends and family, but with anyone, anywhere in the world: the more random the place and the person, the better. This is the idea behind Postcrossing, an online platform created to support this hobby: send a postcard and receive a postcard back from a random person somewhere in the world, regardless of location, age, gender, race or beliefs. On signing up, you receive another user’s address to which you are to send your first postcard. When this person receives it, he/she registers your postcard on the Postcrossing website. From that moment on, you should check your mailbox regularly, because you will be the one to receive a postcard from a random user.

Inspired by his love for real mail and postcards, Paulo Magalhães from Portugal started Postcrossing as a side project while he was a student. “A postcard is a tangible medium of communication. Unlike emails, which are quick but shallow and cold, a postcard is personal, intimate. Someone takes the time to pick out a postcard, handwrite a message, put a stamp on it and post it. Then the postcard travels across the world until it reaches a mailbox. That’s special! That’s meaningful!” explains Paulo.

 

Paulo with Ana Campos, community manager of Postcrossing. Like him, she has been part of the project from the beginning. | Image: Klara Yoon

Paulo started creating the website in his free time with his friends’ support, and on 14 July 2005, the Postcrossing project was opened to everyone for free. “I knew there were more people interested in sending and receiving mail, but there was no simple way for me to connect with them,” says Paulo. And that’s how the idea of Postcrossing was born, during the period of the year when people are usually most likely to send cards: “The original idea first popped up in my head during the Christmas holidays, when lots of postcards are sent and received among family members and friends. Why not do that the whole year? I thought. Postcards are certainly a nice way to communicate any time,” Paulo recalls.

 

To his surprise, the world welcomed this initiative more warmly than he could ever have expected or hoped. Within days, more and more people were signing up from countries all over the world: “Initially I told only my friends about it, hoping that there would be a few dozen participants. But my friends told their friends, who told their friends and so on, and soon, it was crossing borders and we had many members joining every day. It was a big surprise. I was not expecting it to be such a popular idea,” admits Paulo.

Initially I told only my friends about it, hoping that there would be a few dozen participants. But my friends told their friends, who told their friends and so on, and soon, it was crossing borders and we had many members joining every day.

At the time of writing, 13,173,637 postcards have been received through Postcrossing and have travelled 69,863,519,017 km, equating to 1,743,319 laps around the earth or 90,872 return trips to the moon or 233 return trips to the sun! And these numbers grow every day. Postcrossing has broken down the borders between countries and continents, making this world a smaller and cosier place to live in and connecting people of different cultures, who without it would have no opportunity to communicate. It’s also a reason to check your mailbox with excitement and anticipation, turning it into a box of surprises. Or it can be even more than that. Through Postcrossing, friendships and relationships have developed.

Ivan and Natalia’s story

Natalia sending a postcard. It was at the first Postcrossing meet-up in Sevastopol, Ukraine, that she met Ivan. | Image: Natalia

“We have not met each other, but this little card is to link you and me and to narrow the distance, so that the earth becomes smaller and human beings come closer,” wrote Ivan when he first created a profile on www.postcrossing.com. Back then, it was difficult for him to imagine that his passion for postcards would lead him to… well, let’s see…

Ivan and Natalia from Ukraine had both participated in Postcrossing, but they had never sent each other a postcard; it was the first Postcrossing meet-up in Sevastopol, Ukraine, in 2010, which brought them together. “My friend was one of the organisers, so I could not be absent. Postcrossing was the starting point of our relationship,” remembers Natalia.

Ivan also had a strong motivation for attending this meeting: he had sent hundreds of postcards but had never met those like-minded people who also enjoyed signing cards with a pen, buying stamps and pasting envelopes.

Love from the first… postcard?

With Ivan, Natalia admits it was not “love from the first… postcard”. In the beginning, there was just sympathy between the two of them, based on their common interests. “We were living in the same city, so after we met at the Postcrossing meet-up, our daily contact started. We made the most of any possibility to spend time together. Two times per week we went to a photography course and on the weekend, when the weather was fine, we enjoyed kayaking,” they say.

However, it was only half a year after becoming friends that they started dating and became a couple. One year after their first meeting, Ivan and Natalia believed they knew each other well enough to make the big decision to get married. What Natalia appreciates the most about Ivan is the kindness and the motivation he shows in everything he does. Ivan, for his part, has always been impressed by Natalia’s liveliness and dynamism.

“After the wedding, we went straight to the central post office to send postcards to our friends around the world.” | Image: Natalia and Ivan

On 26 November 2011, Ivan and Natalia got married at the registry office in Sevastopol, Ukraine. “We were both very nervous on the day, but in the evening the only feeling that remained was happiness. We didn’t even care about the rainy weather. After the wedding, we went straight to the central post office to send postcards to our friends around the world. Among numerous other exciting moments, we also visited a smithy and forged our own horseshoe as a symbol of happiness and luck for a new family,” they recall.

The next parcel to arrive

After trying many jobs, from bank clerk to copywriter, Natalia today could not enjoy her work more, as it is directly connected with Postcrossing – she is the administrator for an online postcard shop. She can talk about this theme for hours: “For me, Postcrossing is a great chance to communicate. I have liked postcards ever since I was a child. My mother has a huge collection of postcards that she built up before I was born.”

The news of Natalia and Ivan’s wedding is sent off around the world. | Image: Natalia and Ivan

Ivan, on the other hand, is today one of the dedicated organisers of Postcrossing meet-ups in Ukraine: “Usually we book a table in a café, we bring postcards and sign them for our friends from other countries. We often catch surprised and perplexed glances from other guests… Postcrossing is still something unknown for the majority of people, but we are working hard on its promotion,” says Ivan. He still appreciates above all the times when he receives a little particle of another culture. He is extremely happy when he gets a card from Japan with Japanese characters. “Emails will never replace authentic letters, because letters carry their own energy which can be felt only on the physical level. Digital letters can’t render even half of these emotions, IMHO (in my humble opinion), as net people say,” jokes Ivan.

What Ivan and Natalia now hope to receive, though, is not another postcard, but a bigger type of “parcel.” They are waiting for a stork carrying their baby. And when that happens, they will certainly spread the news to their Postcrossing friends around the world. Signed. Stamped. Postcard sent!

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